Surely this information is curious to you, but pineapples are carnivorous plants with the ability to ingest small insects. This is accomplished with the help of bromelain, a protein-digesting enzyme found in the stem, fruit, leaves, and rind. Once the top of the pineapple collects the rain and an involuntary ant crawls inside, the bromelain is released into the water, slowly dissolving the trapped insect and then being absorbed by the fruit.
Bromelain's ability to digest protein explains why our tongue could hurt after eating a good amount of fresh pineapple. And also, why pineapple juice is an excellent meat tenderizer.
Numerous studies on bromelain in the last 50 years have revealed its benefits as a natural medicine. Bromelain breaks down proteins into amino acids, which are the building blocks of almost all biological processes in the human body.
Amino acids are found in our cells, muscles, and tissues. They play a key role in the transport and storage of nutrients, the function of organs, arteries and glands, as well as the repair of bones, muscles and skin.
Bromelain benefits
Below you can learn about the benefits of bromelain, and how you can incorporate it into your diet.
1. Bromelain is cardioprotective
First recognized as a therapeutic compound in 1957, studies on bromelain have indicated that it exerts several actions that benefit heart health.
According to a systematic review on the use of bromelain in cardiovascular diseases (1), it has powerful anti-inflammatory and antithrombotic properties. In animal and human studies, bromelain treatments resulted in increased blood flow, the breakdown of cholesterol plaques on artery walls, and a lower risk of blood clots. The use of bromelain also reduced the degree of tissue death during cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke.
While bromelain is best used as preventive and maintenance therapy alongside typical medications, it is an incredibly safe add-on treatment with no reported serious side effects, even when used for a period of ten years or more.
2. Bromelain for osteoarthritis
The Osteoarthritis is a common joint disorder is characterized by pain, swelling, stiffness and limited range of motion in the knee, hands or hips. While there is no cure, the symptoms of osteoarthritis are usually treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), hydrocortisone injections, or joint replacement surgery.
Since the first line of treatment for osteoarthritis is often NSAIDs, the researchers compared the safety and efficacy of diclofenac NSAIDs with a combination of enzymes, including bromelain. Published in Clinical Rheumatology (3), the study included 103 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee; Half received diclofenac, while the other half were treated with a mixture of the antioxidant rutin and the enzymes bromelain and trypsin for six weeks. Both treatments resulted in nearly equal improvements in knee joint pain, swelling, and function, and the bromelain mix was slightly better than diclofenac.
3. Bromelain helps speed recovery time
Protein-digesting enzymes, also known as proteolytic enzymes or proteases, have long been used in folk medicine to treat traumatic injuries.
While modern medicine tends to favor NSAIDs for treating injuries sustained in sports, studies of bromelain and other types of proteolytic enzymes have shown the ability to quell inflammation and speed healing time.
In a review of recovery time from sports injuries, more than 1,500 athletes in eight studies supplemented with proteolytic enzymes to treat various traumas, including sprains, strains, bruises, lacerations, back pain, and fractures.
The results of each study were favorable with significant improvements in pain, swelling, redness, and the recovery period. The amount of time required to recover was cut in half compared to those who did not take enzyme supplements.
Bromelain also works well as a post-operative pain treatment. The 2016 study involved 40 patients who needed to undergo oral surgery to remove affected molars.
After the procedure, patients were prescribed bromelain supplements for five days and were assessed for pain and swelling on day 1, day 3, and day 7 after surgery. Of the 40 participants, 70% had significant reductions in pain and swelling of the face and jaw after taking bromelain.
4. Bromelain shows anti-cancer properties
Because bromelain affects the inflammatory and circulatory systems in the human body, several studies have investigated how it might affect malignant cancer cells.
Preliminary findings in in vitro models have shown that bromelain modifies key pathways in cancer development (4). For example, a 2007 animal study (5) found that mice treated with bromelain preparations had reduced tumor formation and volume.
Bromelain also activated apoptotic cell death in cancer cell lines and inhibited the expression of the pro-inflammatory enzymes COX-2 and NF-kappa B, both of which play an important role in many types of cancer.
Although human studies are needed, these results indicate that bromelain could be a powerful cancer preventative.
5. Bromelain is antimicrobial
When it comes to helping the body fight infection, perhaps we should be taking pineapple juice in combination with other foods and medicines that are commonly taken.
This enzyme is a very powerful antimicrobial, it has shown the ability to counteract internal pathogens and increase the effectiveness of antibiotics.
In a study conducted in Germany (6), 116 children under 11 years of age and diagnosed with acute sinusitis (or nasal infection) received bromelain alone, and other children in combination together with standard treatments such as decongestants or standard treatments alone. Interestingly, bromelain monotherapy was the most effective, with a mean duration of symptoms spanning 6.6 days, while standard therapy alone resulted in 7.95 days for recovery and combination therapy prolonged sinus infection for 9.06 days.
6. Bromelain can help with weight loss
By exerting its action at the molecular level, it appears that bromelain may be helpful for weight loss. The in vitro study (2) published in 2012 found that bromelain enzymes interfere with adipogenesis, the process by which cells transform into adipose tissue or fat cells.
Bromelain not only modulates this process and prevents cells from turning into fat cells, it also reduces the expression of the fat gene in general, causes fat cells to die, and causes fats to break down into fatty acids.
While more research is needed, these findings indicate that bromelain has the potential to be an excellent nutritional herbal supplement that can help prevent the formation of fat in the first place.
How to get the best sources of bromelain
Since pineapples are the only natural source of bromelain, including more of this fruit in your diet will ensure that you get the right amount of bromelain. Avoid canned or cooked pineapple as heat destroys much of its bromelain content. You can get bromelain directly from the flesh of the fruit, as well as the inner core, which can be processed or mixed for easier consumption.
Although bromelain is incredibly safe and well tolerated, it can interact (and increase the potency) of antibiotics and blood-clotting medications, so it's always a good idea to speak with your doctor before taking bromelain supplements.
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